Design Challenge One: Nicky Ovitt



NickyOvittI’m so excited to be part of this competition and this first challenge is a great one!

Unlike some of the other participants, I am admittedly NOT very well traveled. As I described to a friend the other day, I’m like a coming-ripe peach: handle with care, time and mode of travel are of the essence! Add to that I’ve just not had a lot of opportunities nor made it a priority in this life. But I DO love being elsewhere, exploring, and I’d even say I’m quite adaptable— heck, I’m the girl who thinks she could live in hotels whenever staying in a really nice one… “Stuff at home? What stuff?” So I’ve been to Mexico (Oaxaca was incredible), Florida, Montana (my favorite state) and lived all over the Southwestern United States and San Francisco.

I have not felt particularly travel deprived but a few places come to mind that, if I liked the term “bucket list,” I would record there. New York City, the remote wilds of Alaska, and Kathmandu are at the top.

I never tire of climbing movies, documentaries and articles about Nepal and Tibet. For this challenge I read author, occultist, anarchist, feminist and explorer Alexandra David-Néel’s book, My Journey to Lhasa wherein she travels through winter and by foot to the forbidden city of Lhasa in 1924. Neél and her young companion Yongden, who is posing as her son, travel under cover as a pilgrims with only the clothes on their backs. She is 56 years old. Yongden wears a pointed red cap which signifies his position (and duty) as a Nønshe oracle. Along the way he tells fortunes and gives advise. Much of the oddity found along their way is explained in wonderful prose such as “phantasmagoric yet fascinating realm of thought-forms and shape shifters.” Néel’s writing style and language of the time describe so well what mystical feeling I hope to find there.


My research produced this moodboard of yak butter lamps, saddhus, wind-weathered cheeks, heavy ropes of marigolds and bright color palettes from Nepalese textiles, a Pendleton coat and my ice tea that was just the right color of ochre. What I envision of my visit to Kathmandu, Nepal is is a lively market teeming with worshipers, sherpas and local vendors; the smell of smoky incense and warm tea, the melting of accents from all over the world. I see a profusion of color, texture and rich decoration in the traditional costumes and the lovingly adorned Buddhist gompas.

Tibetan Buddhist culture abounds with vivid scenes, symbology and religious purpose. I’m a long-time admirer of the artwork in thangkas and this book is an incredible library of motifs and their meanings. However, for this project I wanted to further explore the FEEL of this high altitude dream and to honor religious imagery by not appropriating it here. In my main pattern you’ll find representations of the great Himalaya range, the everyday offerings of garlands, flowers and bells mixed with emblems that represent the spiritual aspiration that is the ground for all life in this region. It’s been said that in Nepal art and life are inseparable.


This vision of maxed-out candy colors inspired me to begin by sketching with colored markers. After I came up with some shapes I liked, I inked them on vellum and then edited the best of those for scanning and developing further in Illustrator.

During the design process I prepared other patterns because I was having so much fun! Then, quilter and fabric designer Pati Fried got me thinking when I heard her speak at an East Bay Modern Quilt Guild panel discussion about fabric design. Pati described her practice of mocking up quilts with paper print outs to check scale and color. I decided to experiment with my extra designs and made this baby quilt pattern embellished with pom poms and bright embroidery. The central star shape reflects a motif in my main pattern and the points of the Nepalese flag.


I will post more images of these coordinates on my blog after this post has appeared so sign up on my mailing list (bottom left of the page) if you’d like to be notified when they are up in full glory.


I hope that you’ve had fun exploring this trip to Kathmandu with me. When I do go, I intend to contact and hopefully volunteer for Sabriye Tenberken who co-founded Braille Without Borders, a school for blind children in Tibet— she is also blind and an incredibly inspiring woman. Blindsight is a moving documentary about taking a group of her kids to climb the 23,000 foot Lhakpa Ri mountain.

Thanks TPB! I’m looking forward to wandering where the other designers were inspired to travel.


Mood board: 1. Nepalese child  2. prayer candles © Tara Bradford  3. puppets in Kathmandu market  4. Sadus in Kathmandu  5. lord Ganesha birthday worship Sunil Sharma  6. flag of Nepal  7. community art and development poster © Gyanu Lama  8. back of yeti, Nepal © Matt Cauquil  9. market © TLWH  10. sand mandala in process  11. Alexandra David Néel  12. my ice tea  13. vintage Pendleton robe  14. John De Maya patchwork scarf  15. F14 apparel by Mara Hoffman  16. marigold garlands  17. prayer flags and bag, personal collection  18. colorful powder bowls in market © Walter Quirtmair  19. man in red cap

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16 comments on “Design Challenge One: Nicky Ovitt

  1. Nicky…
    Wonderful inspiration, color palette, motifs and DESIGNS!!!
    They are all so gorgeous! Love them all, and love that baby quilt you’ve created! It looks so real (hehehe)… Plus e Pom poms: ADORABLE!

  2. Lovely design & colours and what a great mock up, the baby quilt!

  3. Love this design and the colors!

  4. Fantastic! Love that baby quilt. Kx

  5. This is just gorgeous, it!

  6. Fantastic Nicky! I can feel the ethnic festivity. Love the combination of the loose flow with the tight balance of design. Very masterful!

  7. Helen Lucero on said:

    Such gorgeous colors! The entire design makes me think of travel to wonderful lands, adventure, and fun. And that baby quilt is exquisite!

  8. samina khadam on said:

    Love the designs, and inspiring moodboard!

  9. Nicky, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your inspiration. You almost had me believing that you had been there! I loved that I could hear your voice as I read it. Great job – wonderful colors, exciting motifs. The quilt is stunning!

  10. thanks all for leaving comments! i am really enjoying reading everyone else’s design text and being a part of this contest! xxx

  11. Rebecca on said:

    Loving the colour palette…& it’s such a beautiful design :)

  12. Holly Helgeson on said:

    Gorgeous! You are a fantastic tour guide! I think I can even smell the tea and incense as I read through your blog! Your design clearly depicts your inspiration!

  13. This is fabulous Nicky! Congrats! I love the motifs and the colors… and the quilt mock-up is amazing. Congrats and nice work!

  14. Very cool! I love how your drawings evolved and how organic the resulting design is. Unique color palette and the coordinating designs work really well with the main.

  15. I loved seeing your individual drawings all come together in a lovely cohesive design.

  16. I loved seeing all of your inspirational images, process drawings and coordinating prints!

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